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Angel's Book Reviews 2.0

I already have a Goodreads account and a Tumblr book blog. I'm still not sure how I could use this platform fully, so, until further notice, this will be just backup, nothing more.


Warriors - The introduction was very nice to read. I, too, have a habit of reading many different genres, despite having sci-fi and fantasy as favorites. I like to think of myself as a possibly future writer, but I wouldn't like to restrain myself to only one genre. And I've always found it slightly odd whenever someone tells me they only read one genre...

THE KING OF NORWAY by Cecelia Holland - 3.5 stars
Nice historical fiction piece, dealing with vikings. It was fast-paced and gripping, but it is set in a series (Holland's The Life and Times of Corban Loosestrife) that I haven't read and, because of that, there is a lot of information missing. I assume most of the background had been dealt with in the other books, so this story feels a bit rushed, and it's sometimes confusing. But I like her characters and her style, so I'll add this series to my wishlist.

FOREVER BOUND by Joe Haldeman - 4 stars
This one is also set in a series (Forever War), but it's genuinely a standalone effort. I really liked it. It is touching and sweet while dealing with war, combat and loss, which is always a tricky thing to do. It has giant robots, and that's always a bonus. The "soldierboy" mechanism seems very similar to the Jaegers in Pacific Rim, but with more people; but there are enough differences to keep them separate. (I do wonder if this wasn't one of the influences for the film... It seems quite likely, considering the first book came out in 1974.) I haven't read this series either, but I'll definitely check it out.

THE TRIUMPH by Robin Hobb - 5 stars
A very nice historical fiction/fantasy story. I'm not too familiar with Hobb's work, but recently I have read this and another novelette by her, and I'm amazed at her sensitivity and ability to create different yet equally compelling characters. This story is about two roman soldiers who, once upon a time, fought against a dragon, and it is sweet and heart-wrenching. It does have some pretty graphic descriptions of torture, so, if you're troubled by this kind of thing, beware.

CLEAN SLATE by Lawrence Block - 4.5 stars
The feminist in me kept squirming uncomfortably and squinting suspiciously at a few passages, but I was surprised when it ended and she didn't really have a real complaint to make, even thought the underlying subject was a very sensitive one and it would have been very easy for this story to slip into a misogynistic slur. I have never read anything by Block before, and I loved this particular character. The suspense is very well done, with a nice little twist.

AND MINISTERS OF GRACE by Tad Williams - 3.5 stars
A solid hard-boiled sci-fi story, with an interesting hypothesis nicely exploited. My only problem with this is that I didn't really felt like it ended... I felt like there was a lot more to be told, and I was left on a hook.

SOLDIERIN' by Joe R. Lansdale - 4 stars
I suppose this one would be a western. I have to confess this was never one of my favorite genres... But I felt this one was very different from the usual westerns, with a black protagonist and a really funny satirical prose. I really liked it.

DIRAE by Peter S. Beagle - 5 stars
WOW. This was my first encounter with Mr. Beagle; I had heard many good things about him but had never actually read anything by him. And just... WOW. It's a paranormal fantasy story, and it just blew me away. His prose, his characterization, the theme, the ending, everything. Now I'm going on a mad hunt through bookstores, trying to find everything he has ever written.

THE CUSTOM OF THE ARMY by Diana Galbadon - 3 stars
This historical fiction story is also part of a series, Lord John Grey, spin-off from Outcast. It was nice and entertaining. I haven't read the series, but there wasn't any major information I lacked. There were a few details, though, that I imagine I would have enjoyed more if I had read the whole series.

SEVEN YEARS FROM HOME by Naomi Novik - 3.5 stars
This sci-fi story follows the "stranger in a strange land" trope: someone is sent to a different civilization to study or infiltrate them and ends up becoming a part of their society. It is well written, with interesting details, nice ideas in both of the fictional societies and a nice little twist of the usual theme in the end. I kinda wish this was a full-length novel, just so some of the concepts in here could have been more deeply explored.

THE EAGLE AND THE RABBIT by Steven Saylor - 3 stars
Another historical fiction novella. It was interesting, filled with information, nicely set and had a good development. The only thing that bothered me was that, at some points, his writing becomes a bit too professoral; you feel like you're reading a non-fiction history article instead of a story. But maybe that was just because he didn't have enough pages to elaborate as he would have wished.

THE PIT by James Rollins - 1 star
I did NOT like this story. After some soul-searching, I'm convinced it's not just because I can't stand cruelty against animals. I can't stand cruelty against people as well, but some of my favorite stories involve that. The story in itself is an over dramatic cliché (someone is forced into a life of violence despite their best wishes and is saved from it, in the brink of self-destruction, by the warm bosom of a happy family life), the characters are two-dimensional and rushed, the happy ending feels forced, the writing is boring and subpar for the most part (only picking up during the over-detailed descriptions of the tortures the character is subjected to). He even "refrigeratored" the main character's sister. The only thing this story has going for it is the shock factor and the morbid, almost sadistic, descriptions of fear and suffering, and those are just cheap ways to get the reader's attention.

OUT OF THE DARK by David Weber - 1 star
This was the first time I've read David Weber, and after all the good things I've heard about him this was a huge disappointment. It's a mediocre to bad military sci-fi story. I'm not a great fan of war and military stories, but I'll read anything if it's well written, and this wasn't. It feels like an early draft of something (and, since there is a novel-length version of this story, I might well be right); it's full of inconsistencies, the characterization is sloppy, there are excruciatingly detailed descriptions of arms and military tactics but the plot development in itself is rushed and simplistic. For a few paragraphs, the language used is way too formal, the next page it is way too casual. Calling the characters two-dimensional would be flattery; they scarcely have one dimension, let alone two. The ending... If this had been better written, I'd probably find it innovative and refreshing. Since it wasn't, it feels like a sloppy pastiche. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, however, and maybe try to read something else by him in the future. I just hope this truly was an early version of a novel, and not what he'd consider an actually finished story.

THE GIRLS FROM AVENGER by Carrie Vaughn - 4.5 stars
To be honest, I think one of the reasons I liked this one so much is because it came right after a bad story, so it looked good by comparison. Still, it's informative, engaging and well developed. I always love to read a feminist story that doesn't need gratuitous violence and isn't depressing. And it's historical fiction too! Of course, the issues broached in this story are still very much present today. I love her characters and how real they feel, both men and women. I was a bit suspicious of the Kitty Norville novels, thinking it would be a bunch of misogynistic bland romantic spiel, but now I'll definitely give them a chance.

ANCIENT WAYS by S. M. Stirling - 3 stars
A nice post-apocalyptic story. Some things felt a bit forced to me, like the main character deciding to drop everything and go on a perilous adventure in places he had never visited before with a young Cossak he had literally just met... But, overall, very entertaining.

NINIESLANDO by Howard Waldrop - 2 stars
I suppose this one would be a speculative fiction story. It wasn't too badly written, but I didn't like the characters and didn't agree with the premise. They are supposed to be the seeds for a new, better world, yet they will help only a few and leave others to die? Loot the wounded and leave them suffering on the field, without even giving them a merciful death? They don't seem much better than the rest of the people. There is also a practical issue: there were no women whatever in Ninieslando (and I don't want to give any spoilers, but there couldn't be), so this new world of theirs wouldn't be exactly sustainable... But, as a fictional construction of a theoretical concept (the Esperanto language was created with something like this in mind) it wasn't too bad.

RECIDIVIST by Gardner Dozois - 4.5 stars
That was my first encounter with Gardner Dozois, and I'm very much satisfied. It's a highly imaginative, very bizarre dystopic story. It's a bit depressing, but it's hard to write dystopian sci-fi with a truly happy ending... Unlike many other stories in this anthology, it didn't feel too short or too long; the concept was developed as fully as it could be with these characters. But I would like to read more about this... Maybe other stories, with other characters, in different points in time, in this universe. But I guess it's not likely to happen.

MY NAME IS LEGION by David Morrell - 3.5 stars
A nice and very emotional historical fiction story. Nicely written. A bit predictable, but it's not a suspense, so the ending is not supposed to be a surprise.

DEFENDERS OF THE FRONTIER by Robert Silverberg - 3.5 stars
Well written sci-fi story, with an interesting ending. It leaves you wondering what did happen to the Empire, after all. A bit dreary, but entertaining.

THE SCROLL by David Ball - 4 stars
It was well written, but it's very dreary to read. I wouldn't call it a historical fiction story, since it doesn't really offer a lot of valid historical information. It is very similar to Edgar Allan Poe's stories of horror, of which I have always been a fan.

THE MISTERY KNIGHT by George R. R. Martin - 4 stars
The third installment of Martin's Hedge Knight. I liked this one a lot, it feels much closer to the Song of Ice and Fire books. Probably because of all the backstage scheming... I'm always a bit surprised when I read these stories and they actually have an ending. Very entertaining, full of knights, jousting and backstabbing. What more can a girl ask for?